Sir Michael Cullen says he is looking forward to his new role as chairman of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.
Announced in his new role today, Sir Michael said the focus of the first few weeks will be to get an understanding of what the job entails.
"My main interests are going to be in how the DHB can better support primary health care facilities and facilities in smaller centres around the area - which is quite a large one."
Sir Michael said he would also focus on being able to provide a good range of elective surgeries, which would contribute to people's quality of life.
He said he felt his experience as a senior Cabinet minister held him in good stead for this new position, despite having little personal experience in the health sector.
"I've been Associate Minister of Health in the past and spent nine years as Minister of Finance ... health is one of the two biggest spending areas in any government," he said.
Incoming deputy chairwoman Sharon Shea holds a position on the Northland District Health Board and has held roles in both government and non-government organisations, focusing on Māori health improvement.
Sir Michael said there was a good deal of experience within the board under the new appointments and elections and expected "a very large number" of challenges, including meeting the Government's expectations.
The disparity of wealth between the communities in the Eastern Bay and Western Bay would bring challenges of a different kind, he said.
"I'm particularly interested to see what, if anything, the DHB can do to assist in the provision of basic dental services ... that's one of the huge gaps in terms of health delivery in New Zealand."
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But he was looking forward to his new role and "getting to grips" with this new area of expertise.
"I'm looking forward to ... getting to know the members of the board, the senior management, and getting to understand better how the way the DHB works fit what people want from the DHB," he said.
"Hopefully there is a good deal of information about that available. If not we'll have to generate that information, because I think boards of this sort have to be aware that they are accountable to their local population."
Health Minister Dr David Clark said as a former Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Michael will bring "huge experience and formidable intellect to the role".
The new board starts work on December 9.